With the entire European project severely threatened, Belgium’s former prime minister offers a prescription to save the European Union.
Following the bailout of Greece and Britain’s vote to leave the union, amid a boiling refugee crisis and an unprecedented threat of terrorism, the EU’s continued survival no longer seems assured. How, then, to save it? A member of the European Parliament since 2009, Verhofstadt (The Financial Crisis—How Europe Can Save the World, 2009, etc.) argues, unsurprisingly, for complete integration along the lines of the American federal model. Few will dispute his analysis of the union’s current infirmities: a sluggish economy, a 25 percent youth unemployment rate, low levels of labor mobility, no common budget, a pitifully weak defense community, lax security arrangements, and a common currency unsupported by a true political union. As he addresses these and other issues, the author hits all the predictable notes about transparency and democracy while calling for more streamlined institutions and even a two-tier reorganization (full or associated membership). For the current mess, he faults EU elites for their “quick fix politics” and for attempting a “step-by-step Europe” instead of committing wholeheartedly to union. Mostly, though, he blames those under “the nationalist delusion that still haunts Europe”: predatory outsiders like Vladimir Putin; troublemaking insiders like Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, Britain’s Tony Blair, and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán; provocateurs like France’s Marine Le Pen and Britain’s Nigel Farage. But why gratuitously insult the ghosts of Margaret Thatcher, Charles de Gaulle, even Milton Friedman, serious people all, or more grievously, rudely dismiss the millions of euroskeptics loath to surrender sovereignty to a union whose benefits have yet to outweigh its burdens? Verhofstadt takes a swipe at assuaging their concerns but ultimately rejects these voices as merely xenophobic, crudely populist, or absurdly emotional. His barely concealed contempt for those who have frustrated his cherished project will likely win few converts among a constituency essential for the EU’s success.
A proper diagnosis, likely some good medicine, delivered with an unfortunate bedside manner.